The Truth About Inflammation and Heart Disease

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What’s the number one cause of death in the US? The fact that it’s heart disease may not come as a shock to you. However, what may surprise you is that, unlike what the media and statistics suggest, cholesterol isn’t the main cause of heart disease.

In his groundbreaking book, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You, Dr Ray D. Strand, M.D. states that his research revealed that more than 50% of heart attack patients in the US have normal cholesterol levels! Instead of cholesterol, there is a strong link between inflammation and heart disease (hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis), particularly inflammation of the blood vessels in the arteries.

What Causes Arteries to Become Inflamed?

According to Dr Strand, there are a number of culprits. The main one is the oxidization of LDL cholesterol. The other is a substance called homocysteine.

What’s interesting to note is that although LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol has a reputation as “bad cholesterol”, it’s essential for building healthy cell membranes, other cell parts, and many different hormones that our body needs. Our bodies actually can’t survive without it. Because cholesterol is water-insoluble, it must be transported inside lipoproteins. The main function of LDLs is to transport cholesterol from the liver to tissues that incorporate it into cell membranes.

So, why’s LDL cholesterol considered to be “bad”?

In its normal form, LDL cholesterol is harmless. However, problems begin to occur when its structure is modified.

How does this happen?

The innermost layer of the arterial wall, known as the intima, is a type of connective tissue. It’s made of three parts:

  1. the first layer of cells bordering the blood flow, which is a tissue-thin lining called the endothelium.
  2. the subendothelial space, which lies below the endothelium.
  3. a thin layer of protein that makes up the internal basement membrane.

A vital function of the endothelial cells is the formation of a barrier to stop substances from the blood entering the vessel wall. However, as LDLs are tiny compared to cell dimensions, they can pass across the arterial endothelial barrier at a slow rate. The trouble is that they end up getting trapped there. The concentration of LDLs in the arterial intima is around 10 times higher than in any other connective tissue in the body.

While the LDLs able to disperse in the reverse direction through the endothelial cells, it can take weeks or months. And, unlike other connective tissues, the arterial intima has no lymph vessels to drain them away.

As long as the LDLs remain in the arterial intima, they’re subject to chemical attack which causes their structure to be altered. As this study explains, one of the main ways that this occurs is via oxidization from unstable molecules (free radicals) that are missing an electron. They readily take electrons from other molecules in order to become stable. LDL cholesterol molecules are particularly susceptible to this.

The body responds to the change in the LDLs structure by sending certain white blood cells (mainly monocytes) to try and eliminate them, so that they don’t irritate the sensitive endothelium. Unfortunately, if there are too many oxidized LDLs, the monocytes become so overloaded with them that they turn into balls of fat (known as foam cells) that attach themselves to the lining of the artery. The name for these inflammatory lesions is fatty streaks. It’s the first step in the process of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

How Inflammation Leads to Heart Disease

The inflammation attracts further monocytes, resulting in a chronic inflammatory response around the lining of the arteries. Over time, some fatty streaks develop another kind of cholesterol deposit which forms the core of atherosclerotic plaque. This plaque builds up, and the smooth muscle layer of the artery thickens. Eventually, the plaque may rupture and a clot will form around it. If it causes the blood flow to the heart to be blocked, heart attack will result. Arteries can also become hardened and narrowed to the point that they shut off the blood flow.

A number of scientific studies have revealed a link between C-reactive protein in the blood, as a marker of inflammation, and atherosclerosis. (Refer to this study, this study, and this study).

Other studies that have investigated inflammation, LDL oxidation, and heart disease include:

This scientific study, which confirmed that increased LDL oxidation during infection and inflammation may promote atherogenesis (formation of plaque that causes atherosclerosis), and could be a mechanism for increased incidence of coronary artery disease in patients with chronic infections and inflammatory disorders.

This scientific review, which found that an unhealthy diet high in oxidized cholesterol and oxidized fatty acids is absorbed into the body and increases fatty streak lesions, thereby contributing to increased arterial atherosclerosis.

And this scientific study, which indicated that metabolic syndrome (a complex disorder combining obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance) is associated with a higher oxidized LDLs in the body and increased future risk of heart problems.

What’s the Solution?

While all this may sounds scary, as Dr Strand outlines in his book, the good news is that supplementation with antioxidants and their supportive nutrients can control oxidative stress, and eliminate or significantly reduce all causes of inflammation it the arteries. Hundreds of clinical studies, which have examined heart disease, report significant health benefits with the use of nutritional supplements.

However, all antioxidants should be taken in conjunction with each other. As this scientific review indicates, there have been conflicting results in regards to clinical trials of antioxidants. The reason why is that many of them study the supplements individually.

To halt oxidative stress, the body needs enough antioxidants to neutralize all free radicals, and the antioxidants need all supportive nutrients in order to do their job well. These ingredients all work in synergy to overcome oxidative stress.

Where inflammation of the arteries is concerned, the most important nutrients have been found to be: Vitamin E, Vitamin C, glutathione, and bioflavinoids.

Vitamin E protects the LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized. Vitamin C protects the integrity of the endothelium, decreases the oxidization of LDL cholesterol, and regenerates Vitamin E and glutathione. Bioflavinoids (beta-carotene along with other types of carotene) are also necessary to help slow down the oxidization process. Selenium, Vitamin B2, N-acetyl-L-cysteine, and niacin are all precursors to glutathione, and will help build up levels within the cells.

Folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12, are important in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease as well.

Find out more about Why Nutritional Supplements are Essential to Reduce Inflammation and how to choose a quality supplement.

A Powerful Natural Supplement that Targets the Circulatory System

If your arteries are suffering from a build-up of plaque, it’s a good idea to take a supplement that directly targets the circulatory system. We highly recommend Xtend-Life Cardio-Support. It was developed after one year of intensive research and contains 29 precise natural ingredients.

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  • Breaks down the plaque in arteries gradually and disposes of it.
  • Reduces aggregation of platelets in the blood.
  • Smooths the interior of the arteries to improve blood flow.
  • Increases antioxidant protection (to inhibit free radical damage).
  • Reduces calcium build up.
  • Decreases homocysteine toxicity.
  • Balances LDL and triglyceride levels.
  • Increases circulatory strength and heart muscle function.

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